Tag Archives: Christmas

Books I Read in December 2022

Christmas magazines!

I have to warn you up front, I can’t pick a favorite from this month’s book list. They are so different from each other and have value in different ways. But I can tell you that I had fun perusing through my stack of Christmas magazines. I always enjoy a good magazine, but I especially love Christmas magazines. Looking through Christmas magazines brings back the magic of being a child for me. I find it to be very much like going through the eagerly awaited Christmas catalogs with the huge selection of toys in the back. In addition to the Sears catalog, we had the JC Penney’s and Montgomery Wards books. I spent hours sitting on the couch, paging through each book, turning down the page corners on the items I decided to put on my list for Santa Claus. It took me so long because I wanted so many things and knew I had to limit it to a few. I would go back and forth over which items to leave off my list to arrive at a reasonable number. I hope each of you have equally fond holiday memories.

Without further ado, here is my list of magazines and books that I read this December.

Magazines:  Country Living (2), Good Housekeeping, Taste of Home Christmas edition, HGTV Christmas Idea Book, Taste of Home regular edition, Taste of Home Holiday Baking, Woman’s Day, Country Living Christmas Spectacular, Better Homes & Gardens Farmhouse Christmas

  1. The Plot and the Pendulum-Jenn McKinlay

Librarian Lindsey Norris is back solving another crime in coastal Briar Creek Connecticut. This is the 13th book in the Library Lover’s Mystery series. The library becomes the beneficiary of a considerable collection of books from the town’s Dorchester mansion. Lindsey stumbles across a skeleton in a secret room while packing books at the mansion. Thus surfaces the unsolved case of “the runaway bride”. This book had a very Nancy Drew vibe for me, and I loved Nancy Drew. I snatch up each new release in this series as soon as I can find it at the library.

2. Death of an Ice Cream Scooper-Lee Hollis

This is the 15th in the Hayley Powell series. She and her friends live in Bar Harbor, Maine. She writes a food column in the local paper and owns a restaurant. Her ice cream supplier finds an employee dead in the ice cream shop. The question is,” Who done it”? These are light-hearted mysteries. I do wish she included more about what it is like to live in Maine as that is one of my favorite places.

3. Make Space for Happiness-Tracy McCubbin (Non-fiction)

This book was not what I expected. I thought it would give me ideas on how to store and organize belongings. Instead, it was about why we collect and hang onto things and how to overcome it. Interesting.

4. The Lost Summers of Newport-Williams, Willig, and White

Just finished this one and, wow! The story is told in three different time periods, about three different women a family line. This is a book about sins of the father, class, right and wrong, and so many other things, not just a shallow story about rich people as I had feared. With every chapter change in character and time, I decided each was my favorite. I highly recommend it.

5. Starry Night-Debbie Macomber

To heck with Mariah Carey, maybe Debbie Macomber should be called the queen of Christmas. She writes a new Christmas novel every year. In this one, reporter Carrie Slayton is looking for the story that will get her off the society page and on to serious investigative journalism. If she can get an interview with reclusive Finn Dalton, her editor promises her the new job. Dalton is a survivalist type living in Alaska. Carrie is able to track him down and get the interview but will publishing it be worth the cost to their budding relationship. The story is not very realistic, but it is a “feel good” book and I enjoyed it.

6. Driving Miss Norma-Tim Bauerschmidt & Ramie Liddle (Non-fiction)

Ninety year old Norma is diagnosed with cancer as her husband is in the hospital dying. Rather than undergo surgery and further treatment with months of painful recovery and unlikely success, she decides to go on the road with her son and daughter-in-law and their standard poodle. They travel across the country in an RV and make the most of Norma’s remaining time. This is not the most exciting book I have ever read, but there are lessons to be learned.

7. Out of the Clear Blue Sky-Kristan Higgins

Lillie Silva is going through big life changes. Just as her son is due to go far away to college, her husband leaves her for a gorgeous, much younger woman. Lillie is a nurse-midwife and ends up delivering the new wife’s baby. At first, I thought the women were immature and a waste of my time with all the stunts and dishonesty that took place. As I read on, the characters developed and matured and, in the end, I really enjoyed the book. There are lots of female characters and we see a support system that is there during the tough times. I recommend the book. Some of Lillie’s antics will give you a laugh.

8. The Blue Zones American Kitchen-Dan Buettner (Cookbook)

Another Blue Zones book about long-lived groups of people. Apparently the diets of most Americans have not been good for a long time. They did come across some local native dishes that fit the pattern of what long-lived people eat. Most of the recipes in this book call for things I don’t stock and would have trouble finding. The scientific findings are still interesting. And, I did find one recipe for garbanzo beans involving coconut milk and turmeric that I made and will make again.

The Magic of Christmas

Christmas scene

I love Christmas time! As wonderful as the present is, it’s nice to revel in some nostalgia and revisit old traditions. I think Christmas reawakens a little bit of the child in all of us. I remember Christmas’ past and experiences I shared with my mother who is long gone. I so enjoy getting out the Christmas decorations. They bring back so many memories.

The photo above is a time capsule of sorts. The Santas were given to me by many people and as I set them out, I have fond thoughts of each person who gave them to me. Several are from Lucinda, one of my group of college pals who met at Kent State University, Tuscarawas Campus in the early 1980’s. There were four of us girls who hung together over the years. We got together every year with families in tow, for a Christmas party up until a few years ago when two of the original four were no longer with us. Another of those Santas is from Tina who is one of the friends who has passed. There is a Santa and tree that is actually a salt and pepper shaker set. Those are from my stepfather Sam, who passed in 1995. The Mongolian Santa and the Nordic Santa are from my sister-in-law Annie. I am no longer married to her brother and don’t see her as often as I once did, but still consider her to be a great friend and all-around wonderful person. The little Noah’s Ark tree is from my husband’s family, and I find it to be adorable.

By the way, the painting on the wall was done by my husband. He made the frame too. Is he a talented guy, or what?

Christmas scene

This scene above resides on one of the two mantels in our house. Again, the Santas and the snow globe are from my friends Lucinda and Tina. Tina gave me the one holding all the puppies. She said it reminded her of me. Yes, my friends knew me well! I found the bells in my parents’ basement when we were cleaning out their house. I took them home because I loved them. The copy of the Currier and Ives print in the back is from Mumsey’s house. She was my first grandmother-in-law and I remember her fondly every time I look at this picture. This picture is in my office the rest of the year. I have always liked Currier and Ives (and winter), so I never put it away. The Santa holding the puppies is out in my office the rest of the year too. Just because it makes me happy.

Mr. Potato Head!

And speaking of Christmas memories, I used to ask for a Mr. Potato Head, but I never got one. I think my mom just forgot about it. Well, my nieces got a Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head and what fun I had! The creation above is mine. This is what happens when you let a scientist play with toys. You end up with something weird and non-traditional looking, just because.

My friends, I wish each of you the magic of Christmas, whether it comes from fond memories or new experiences. I hope you are blessed with both with holiday season.

Books I Read in November 2022

library book

November was a fun month! We had family from out of state visiting in the area for the Thanksgiving holiday. There were lots of visits to catch up and learn what is going on in each other’s lives. At our house, what is going on almost always involves dogs, cats, or gardens! That’s ok, most everyone in our extended family has dogs or cats, or at least has had them at some point. We also enjoyed lots of good food. My daughter hosted Thanksgiving for the first time. She and her boyfriend are both excellent cooks, so everyone was happy. Even the kids enjoyed homemade mac and cheese. With all these preparations and goings on, I still managed to make an acceptable dent in my reading stack.

  1. Forks Over Knives, the Cookbook-Del Sroufe (Non-fiction)

The Knives Over Forks movement started with a documentary pointing out the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB).  The documented results are amazing. As far as the cookbook goes, once you understand the basics, I think it is pretty easy to come up with recipes on your own. This book is a good place to start.

2. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe-Jenny Baylis

Elinor Noel owns a secondhand bookshop in London. She is from a small village where she attended school at Robinwood castle on scholarship. The old gang spends a week there before the wedding of one of them. Elinor reconnects with an old nemesis and even develops a romance with said nemesis. Of course, something goes wrong, and misunderstandings must be worked out. I only recently discovered this author, and her books immediately go on my “to read” list!

3. Boards & Spreads-Yasmin Fahr (Cookbook)

There are some recipes in this book, but it is mostly about assembling charcuterie boards. Most of them are things I make anyway, served on boards. Still, the book is worth looking at for the beautiful pictures alone.

4. Eat Like You Give a Fork-Marryat Ibrahim (Cookbook)

Contains new concepts of eating for your health. Even though the diet is not vegetarian, it is too restrictive for me. It also incorporates a lot of not so common foods. You would have to be very disciplined to make this diet work.

5. To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before-Lizzie Shane

Elinor Rodrigues’ dog is an escape artist. She’s a quick-witted Australian Shepherd that can work levers and knobs. She also moves chairs to help her reach windows as an escape route. The chief of police, who is also Elinor’s ex-fiancé, chases the dog around town and returns her many times. Elinor and Levi, the police chief have been best friends most of their lives. Now, Elinor is just so mad at him. Can they move past it? An enjoyable read

6. Bloomsbury Girls-Natalie Jenner

Evie Stone, whom we met in The Jane Austen Society, is discharged from her position at Cambridge College. She takes a job at the Bloomsbury Bookshop in London. There she meets coworkers Vivien and Grace, as well as an Indian gentleman, Ash Ramaswamy, who also works there. The women struggle to be respected, as does Ash, being in a foreign land. They become friends and work together, with support from unexpected places, to take control of their lives.

7. Peg and Rose Solve a Murder-Laurien Berenson

This is a new spin on the Melanie Travis mysteries. The main characters in this book are Melanie’s Aunts Peg and Rose. They have a history of getting along like oil and water. Still, the ladies manage to team up to join a bridge club and solve a murder. They may also be on the way to forming a friendship. I look forward to reading more installments in this branch of the mystery series.

Magazines: Cottages & Bungalows (2), Country Living

It’s hard for me to pick a standout from this month’s list. If you want to stretch your mind a little, I recommend Bloomsbury Girls. It concerns racism and the repression of women while still being fun. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe and To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before are both fun romance novels although the former, also addresses racism. I think you would be happy with any of these fiction choices for a nice relaxing time. Then again, maybe you want to pick a Christmas themed novel since the month is upon us. If you have a good one, let me know about it!

At Least There Were Dogs!

Dogs at Family Christmas
Our dogs (+1, belonging to my MIL) on Christmas

This is what Christmas looks like in our family. And from our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

We wish for you, that everyone in your family survives this pandemic and is with you for your holiday celebrations next year. And if it is already too late for that, I hope the coming year brings you peace.

This year was unusual for us, as it was for so many. For the first time in my life, I was not able to see my brother for the holiday season. I also was not able to see my daughter. We are staying separate so everyone stays healthy. Doing our part to stop the corona spread. We did see my mother in law as she is like us and stays home nearly all the time.

I anticipate that next Christmas we will all be together again for the holidays. And what a joyous celebration it will be.

As for this year, at least there were dogs!

A Little Christmas

Morty under the Christmas tree

The Christmas spirit has arrived at our house. It began to snow late this morning. It was a calm, light fluffy snow. The kind that invokes thoughts of good cheer and peace.

So I got out our little tree and decorated it. All of our animals love the tree, but especially the cats. They take up residence underneath and you can find one or the other of them there for the season. After a few squirts of Bitter Apple chew deterrent, they stop chewing it for the rest of the season.

Thumbprint cookies

After lunch, I made a couple batches of cookies we traditionally have around the holidays. First, I baked the thumbprint cookies and filled them.

Molasses crinkles

Then I made molasses crinkles from a recipe handed down from my mother’s Aunt Clara. Mine are never as good as Aunt Clara’s but they are delicious nonetheless. I suspect Aunt Clara used lard in her’s.

Now I am ready to relax for the evening with a couple of cookies and a good book.

Christmas Gone to the Dogs!

Merry Christmas dear Readers.

Our dogs had an enjoyable day as well. The Sheltie girls got treats. Nikki’s are soft for her old teeth. Shelby got chews. Zekie got a nylabone chew toy.

Cassius got a new coat of his very own! No more hand me downs from previous greyhounds.

And Santa brought Baxter two frisbees!

Cassius tried to make off with one of the frisbees.

Cassius, Baxter, and Shelby even got to join in for Christmas at grandma’s!

I hope all of you got to spend the holiday with your loved ones as well.

Caring Revolution, Part II

I didn’t seem to be doing very well at performing caring acts during this holiday season.  I wasn’t sure if I didn’t remember the acts after I did them or if there just weren’t many acts of thoughtfulness. So I decided to keep a list. This turned out to be a very good idea because now I am looking for ways to be kind and show thoughtfulness so I can put it on my list. Maybe not the best motivation but acts become habits and this is a good thing.

First on my list was writing a note to a coworker on my special puffin notepad that I save for special occasions. I told her what a good job she always does of preparing some reports that I need to proofread every month. Her good job makes my life easier.

Stitch

Second on the list is taking in a family member’s cat for “two weeks” while they make accommodations for a change in living circumstances. I suspect this kitty will be here more than two weeks. Infact I suspect he will never leave. I’m ok with that. Our cat population is down. By the way, I am taking him to be neutered on Monday.

Also on the list, writing some personal heartfelt notes in Christmas cards. A number of people have shown me a great amount of compassion this year. Especially at the time of my Mother’s death. I have some pretty impressive friends and family.

This morning I made a call that I have been wanting to make to the local newspaper. They have a column called Sound Off where you can make comments that are published. I thanked our township folks for having the display of Christmas lights lit up when I drive by to go to work at 5 o’clock every morning. It always gives me a smile to start the day.

Nikki  Shelby

And no list of kind acts would be complete without my favorite, the therapy dog visits that Nikki, Shelby, and I make to our friends at the nursing home. I’m not sure it’s fair to count this as a kind act though because I get as much out of it as the friends that I visit.

So my goal for the rest of the holiday season is to continue doing kind acts to add to my list. May your list be long and equally as fulfilling. Merry Christmas, my friends.

Christmas Ramblings

Charlie Brown Hemlock

I call this our Charlie Brown Hemlock. We just transplanted it this year so it is still small. It reminds me of the scraggly tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas. That tree is little and scrawny and pathetic but everyone loves it.

Why do we all love this little tree? Perhaps because it represents the underdog and we can relate. The tree gets decked out in lots of finery and we don’t feel a connection with it anymore. I think many of us at times feel like the underdog so we can relate to this tree. We want people to accept us for who we are without getting all gussied up.

I  like that children’s cartoons teach us lessons of acceptance. If we can learn this when we’re young, the world just may be a kinder place.

Rudolph and Friends

My favorite Christmas cartoon is Rudolph. It also tries to teach us acceptance, of those who are different. If the folks of Christmas Town had been kinder, then Rudolph and Hermie wouldn’t have run away. Luckily they were two forgiving souls and helped the town’s folk when they needed it. I have always loved Rudolph and the message it sends. It became dear to me the year it aired on my birthday and I have watched it every year since. That’s quite a few viewings! My niece and I even watched it together one July. She was nuts like me. Or maybe just tolerant. Or perhaps she had already learned to be kind to those who are different. Anyway, it is a very fond memory.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings, and may you have a very  Merry Christmas!

The Caring Revolution

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Ok, it’s December 1, I think it’s safe to say the “C” word. The Christmas season is here. One of the things I do every year over this season is to get the above two books out and put some of the suggestions in them into action. They are full of good deeds and thoughts to do for, or share, with others. Be a bit of a Christmas angel if you will. Some of the items are physical acts, such as take Christmas cookies to your neighbors. Others have more to do with thoughts and how you treat people.

Sometimes I flip one of the books open at random and do what the suggestion says. Other times I look through the choices until I find one that strikes my fancy. I don’t manage to perform one of these acts every day but I figure, some is better than none. Just my little contribution to try to make the world a better place.

Readers, if any of you perform any thoughtful acts over this Christmas season, I would love to hear about them. Inspiration from others will feed the kindness and maybe we can have a Caring Revolution! Just post them in the comment section below. I challenge you to try it!

And for today, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is below. It’s free and you can do it wherever you are. At first glance I thought it was an easy one, but then again maybe it’s not. Let your journey of spreading joy begin!

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Gifts

20150314_171048

This figure was a gift from my friend Tina. I keep it out all year because it represents so many things to me. It reminds me of the dogs I rescue. And the gift that these dogs are. And I, of course, think of the friend who gave it to me when I see it. Tina has since left this world but her gifts have not. Her gift of friendship and the thoughtful attention she showed in giving are still with me.

So although this is a Christmas gift and it brings to mind the gifts of hope, and peace, and love, I find it to be appropriate throughout the year. It is a reminder that I should try to  exhibit these traits and be a better person.  These are ideas that I want to keep close to me the whole year long.